from the Director's Desk

Musings about school library media and instructional technology programs from NCDPI's Instructional Technology Divison.  Subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What Is Safe Anyway?

Years ago when some of us were first advocating Internet as a tool for classroom instruction, we talked about creating a safe environment for our students by bookmarking sites, designing our own web pages, and of course requiring signed AUPs. We also talked about the pros and cons of filtering because this was before CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act) that mandates all schools receiving E-Rate and other federal dollars must provide filtered access on all computers. I had hoped that we could now concentrate on conversations about using technology resources in educational and productive ways.

Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Recently valid concerns have reached the ears of Congress—realities that every parent, educator, and/or responsible adult should be aware of. Far too often our children are finding, downloading, and even interacting with electronic resources and the people behind them in inappropriate ways. They are giving out their addresses and phone numbers, creating relationships with individuals far too old and experienced for their childhood or teenage years, even participating in games or behavior that would make our adult selves cringe in horror or disgust.

But is DOPA, which piggybacks on CIPA and its E-Rate provision and broadens filtering in schools to include social networking sites like blogs and podcasts, the answer to our fear and uncertainty in a sometimes alien environment? Can we as a nation legislate good behavior with such a broad brush? Are there more effective ways to counter the less savory aspects of electronic resources? Should schools be the primary focus here? Shouldn’t sites such as the blogs that Carteret County teachers are using with their students or the podcasts that Williford Elementary is creating for EOG review be encouraged, not limited by possible legislation?

What a shame that some of these innovative ways of enticing teachers and students to use technology educationally and productively may disappear under DOPA, along with the more raunchy ones! A small price to pay, you say? Perhaps you may want to reconsider and even write to your Congress person. Joe Poletti has a sample letter on his blog Check it out and thank Joe for his activism.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

HB 1981

Last week Rep. Joe Tolson, Rep. Becky Carney, and Rep. Douglass Yongue filed House Bill 1981 the Teachers’ IT Funding Initiative. Basically it allocates $52M to LEAs to spend, based on Average Daily Membership (ADM), on personnel, hardware, software, and/or professional development as specified in their LEA technology plans.

The intent is for this to be a separate fund, not PRC 15, and that it be used to supplement not supplant currently funded technology initiatives. The Governor’s budget requested $4M for connectivity and $2.5M for the North Carolina Virtual Public School. All this points to the understanding that in order for NC to prosper economically, we must create opportunities and resources for moving our schools toward a more technologically savvy environment.

Now is the time for us to thank those responsible for introducing these bills, and begin the careful lobbying for this technology legislation. We must go forward supporting all educational initiatives, highlighting the ways in which technology is helping move all instructional programs forward. Please begin the conversation by inviting a legislator, State Board member, or member of the Governor’s staff to your LEA. Let them see for themselves how important it is to IMPACT Teaching, IMPACT Learning, IMPACT motivation, and IMPACT student achievement.

Friday, May 12, 2006

"Hot" Technologies--New Ideas

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) had an interesting conference call today. Members of CoSN updated us on the newest technologies, many of which you probably already use or have known about for some time. But the applications of these technologies were what really caught my interest.

iPods have come on strong in the NC education community this year. Many of you have talked about how you use them for EOG review. Having students create review questions for their fellow classmates—or for younger children in the school—has been a popular application. On the conference call today they talked about:
How one school district has distributed video iPods to all their technology staff with the expectation that they will be in charge of their own professional development—via their iPods.
Another school has found that cell phones have been particularly useful with their job-embedded students. If they have a problem on the job with a particular piece of equipment, etc., they can just take a picture of it and send it to their job coach.
A central office staff is using their Trios to take pictures/videos of best practices as they visit classrooms.

They also talked about intelligent essay graders, not for teachers to use to give final grades on student papers, but as a first draft reader/responder. Students can submit their papers to the website and get immediate feedback, especially on grammatical errors, punctuation—the kind of errors that drive English teachers crazy. As the presenter said, “The best thing about these sites is that they are non-judgmental, consistent, and offer a timely response.”

One school system has a new policy about their teacher websites. Teacher websites must actually teach students something; it is not enough that they provide information about the daily schedule, the week’s homework, or the field trip information. I would have liked some further discussion on this because I think they have an interesting point. Hopefully just taping classroom lessons isn’t what they mean here!

The final technology they discussed was Radio Frequency Identification (RFIA). These are building entry key cards and the like. Schools are using them for managing equipment inventories and library books. They are also tracking students within the buildings and on the buses, even taking attendance at the door of the school or classroom as the students enter. CoSN will soon publish a position paper advising states and local school districts to consider carefully before they ban these RFID options, since they are such an important resource for both teacher efficiency and security.

I found all this information fascinating and would like to hear from you about your latest uses of the newer technologies. What are you doing that others across the state would find interesting and useful?